Tuesday, May 12, 2015

You Can't Prune Your Family Tree!

So, Ben Affleck hid an ancestor! Well, I guess with all the celebrity genealogists on TV over the last few years it was bound to happen. It was inevitable. And now a dark cloud has been cast over the world of family research. Oh dear, how will we every recover?

What's that you say? It's no biggie?

 Of course it is. It is all over cable news for crying out loud. It was leaked by a whistle-blower. Yes, genealogy now has its very own whistle-blower. It's a biggie. We have been exposed. We hide ancestors. And apparently it is against the law.

Give me a break!!! 

I have to admit that I had second thoughts about commenting on this. I was a little afraid of the feedback I might get. And then I realized that this happens all the time. For many reasons. Grow up people.Can you say "skeletons in the closet" boys and girls? 

So Ben has an ancestor who was a slave owner and he wants to hide it. That is his choice. He will eventually get used to it. I know that may sound callous but it is true. The first time you find out that a member of your family owned slaves it really sets you back. And you try to close that book or ignore that record. But most of us don't get outed by some whistle blower on cable TV. We adjust to the fact. We learn to accept it. And to be honest, it is nobody's business. 

So Ben apologized. Why? It is not necessary. You can't change the past. You can't rearrange your ancestors. They are who they are. You can't go into the probate court record books and erase everything.   
On the other hand you can't add "favorable ancestors" to your family tree either. This is the opposite of what Ben has been charged with. For example, let's say you want to be descended from a president, movie star, or famous cowboy.

Perhaps it is a rumor in your family that your ancestors arrived in America on the Mayflower. In this case, you do everything you can do to find an ancestor who proves this. And you will stop at nothing to hang some unrelated Plymouth, Massachusetts, resident on your family tree. Of course, you also ignore everyone in the family that moved from New York to San Francisco in a Mayflower Moving Van. 

I think this practice of finding famous ancestors in order to enhance your family tree has now faded away. I like to think that we are more concerned with finding the people who shaped our lives.  

The truth is you can't prune your family tree. You can't deadhead those little flowers that spring up on the branches. They are all a part of who you are. 

Accept the people who make up your family tree. Get to know them. It's possible. All you have to do is fill in the "dash".

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